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Speakers

At #NCTE21, you’ll have the opportunity to hear from inspiring speakers who care about literacy as much as you do. The art of teaching and learning writing, reading, speaking, and listening is multifaceted, complex, and rich with possibility. That’s why each year we select general session speakers who bring a range of perspectives: 2021 is no exception. We’re thrilled to share this stellar lineup with you.

Keynote and Section Event Speakers

Elementary Section Get-Together: Thursday, November 18

Dr. Gholnecsar (Gholdy) Muhammad

Thursday, November 18 | 8:15–9:00 p.m. ET

Dr. Gholnecsar (Gholdy) Muhammad is an Associate Professor of Literacy, Language, and Culture at University of Illinois Chicago. She studies Black historical excellence within educational communities with goals of reframing curriculum and instruction today. Dr. Muhammad’s scholarship has appeared in leading educational journals and books. Some of her recognitions include the 2014 NCTE Promising New Researcher Award, the 2016 NCTE Janet Emig Award, the 2017 GSU Urban Education Research Award, the 2018 UIC College of Education Researcher of the Year, and the 2020 American Educational Research Association (AERA) Division K Early Career Awardee. She works with teachers, leaders, parents, and young people across the United States and South Africa in best practices in culturally and historically responsive instruction. She is the author of the bestselling book Cultivating Genius: An Equity Model for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy.

Secondary Section Get-Together: Thursday, November 18

Eliot Schrefer

Thursday, November 18 | 8:15–9:00 p.m. ET

Eliot Schrefer is a New York Times bestselling author and has twice been a finalist for the National Book Award. In naming him an Editor’s Choice, the New York Times has called his work "dazzling . . . big-hearted." He is the author of two novels for adults and four novels for children and young adults. His books have been named to the NPR "best of the year" list, the ALA best fiction list for young adults, and the Chicago Public Library’s "Best of the Best." His work has also been selected to the Amelia Bloomer List, recognizing best feminist books for young readers, and he has been a finalist for the Walden Award and has won the Green Earth Book Award and Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award. He lives in New York City, where he reviews books for USA Today.

ELATE Keynote Session: Friday, November 19

Charles Person

Friday, November 19 | 1:15–2:30 p.m. ET

Charles Person is the only living Freedom Rider who remained with the original Ride from its start in Washington, DC, to its end in New Orleans. At 18 years old, Person was the youngest of the original Freedom Riders, riding with civil rights activists including future congressman John Lewis and Congress of Racial Equality director James Farmer. A sought-after public speaker, Person maintains active contacts with schools, museums, and the activist community. He lives in Atlanta. His memoir, Buses Are a Comin': Memoir of a Freedom Rider, was published earlier this year. 

Middle Level Keynote Session: Friday, November 19

Eve L. Ewing

Friday, November 19 | 2:45–4:00 p.m. ET

Eve L. Ewing is the award-winning author of Electric Arches, 1919, and Ghosts in the Schoolyard. She also wrote the acclaimed Ironheart and Champions series for Marvel Comics. Her work has appeared in many venues, including the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Washington Post, and Vanity Fair. Born and raised in Chicago, she was a middle school teacher before completing her doctorate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Currently she is an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice.

Her first book for middle grade readers, Maya and the Robot (illustrated by Christine Almeda), is about a forgotten homemade robot who comes to life just when aspiring fifth-grade scientist Maya needs a friend—and a science fair project.

College Level Keynote Session: Friday, November 19

Dr. April Baker-Bell

Friday, November 19 | 3:45–5:00 p.m. ET

Dr. April Baker-Bell is an award-winning transdisciplinary teacher-researcher-activist and associate professor of language, literacy, and English education in the Department of English and Department of African American and African Studies at Michigan State University. Baker-Bell is an international leader in conversations on Black Language education, and her research interrogates the intersections of Black Language and literacies, anti-Black racism, and antiracist pedagogies. Her award-winning book, Linguistic Justice: Black Language, Literacy, Identity, and Pedagogy, brings together theory, research, and practice to dismantle Anti-Black Linguistic Racism (a term Baker-Bell coined) and white linguistic supremacy. Baker-Bell is the recipient of many awards and fellowships, including the 2021 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s New Directions Fellowship, the 2021 Michigan State University’s Community Engagement Scholarship Award and the 2021 Distinguished Partnership Award for Community-Engaged Creative Activity, the 2020 NCTE George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language, the 2019 Michigan State University Alumni Award for Innovation & Leadership in Teaching and Learning, and the 2018 AERA Language and Social Processes Early Career Scholar Award.

ALAN at NCTE Keynote Session: Saturday, November 20

Kekla Magoon

Saturday, November 20 | 9:30–10:45 a.m. ET

Kekla Magoon’s Revolution In Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People has been longlisted for the 2021 National Book Award for Young Readers Literature, her young adult novel The Rock and the River was the first mainstream novel for young people to feature the Black Panther Party. In her pursuit of knowledge about the Black Panthers, she has visited museums, archives, and historical sites across the country, in addition to reading, watching films, meeting former Panthers, and attending Panther legacy events. She is the coauthor, with Ilyasah Shabazz, of X: A Novel as well as the author of many other award-winning books for children and young adults. She has received a Margaret A. Edwards Award, an NAACP Image Award, a Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, a John Steptoe New Talent Author Award, three Coretta Scott King Honors, a Walter Dean Myers Award Honor, an In the Margins Book Award, and she has been longlisted for the National Book Award. Kekla Magoon conducts school and library visits nationwide and serves on the Writers Council for the National Writing Project. She holds a BA from Northwestern University and an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she now serves on the faculty. She lives in Vermont.
Visit her online at keklamagoon.com or follow her on Twitter @KeklaMagoon.

Children's Book Awards Keynote Session: Saturday, November 20

Janet S. Wong

2021 Recipient, NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children
Saturday, November 20 | 12:30–2:00 p.m. ET

Janet Wong is a graduate of Yale Law School and a former lawyer who switched careers to become a children’s author. Her dramatic career change has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN’s Paula Zahn Show, and Radical Sabbatical. She is the author of more than 35 books for children and teens on a wide variety of subjects, including writing and revision (You Have to Write), community and inclusion (Apple Pie 4th of July), peer pressure (Me and Rolly Maloo), chess (Alex and the Wednesday Chess Club), identity (A Suitcase of Seaweed & MORE), racism (Good Luck Gold & MORE), and yoga (Twist: Yoga Poems)—and is the winner of the 2021 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. A frequent featured speaker at schools, libraries, and conferences, Wong has served on several national commissions and committees, including the NCTE Commission on Literature and the ILA Notable Books for a Global Society committee. Her most recent anthology, co-edited with Sylvia Vardell, is HOP TO IT: Poems to Get You Moving; her most recent collection of poetry and prose is Good Luck Gold & MORE. You can learn about her work at janetwong.com and pomelobooks.com.

Jen Bryant

Author, Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball (2021 NCTE Orbis Pictus Award® Winner)
Saturday, November 20 | 12:30–2:00 p.m. ET

Jen Bryant writes picture books, novels, and poems for readers of all ages. Her numerous awards include the American Library Association’s Schneider Family Book Award and Sibert Medal, and the National Council of Teachers of English’s Orbis Pictus Award®. Visit her online at jenbryant.com.

Frank Morrison

Illustrator, Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball (2021 NCTE Orbis Pictus Award® Winner)
Saturday, November 20 | 12:30–2:00 p.m. ET

Frank Morrison started his journey as a graffiti artist in New Jersey, tagging walls with spray paint. Through art, he strives to capture people as they are, translating emotions through his paintings and leaving a memoir of our life and times today. He is the award-winning illustrator of many books for young readers, including several Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award books, a John Steptoe New Talent Award winner, and an NAACP Image Award winner. Explore his website: morrisongraphics.com.

Derrick Barnes

Saturday, November 20 | 12:30–2:00 p.m. ET

Derrick Barnes wrote the New York Times bestsellers The King of Kindergarten and I Am Every Good Thing, as well as the critically acclaimed multi-award-winning picture book Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, which received a Newbery Honor, a Coretta Scott King Author Honor, the 2018 Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award, and the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature. He also wrote the bestselling chapter book series Ruby and the Booker Boys. Derrick is a graduate of Jackson State University and was the first African American creative copywriter hired by greeting cards giant Hallmark. He is a native of Kansas City, Missouri, but currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with his wife and their four sons.

Gordon C. James

Saturday, November 20 | 12:30–2:00 p.m. ET

Gordon C. James illustrated the critically acclaimed picture books I Am Every Good Thing and Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut (both by Derrick Barnes), the latter of which received a Caldecott Honor, a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, an Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor, the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature, and a Society of Illustrators Gold Medal. He also illustrated Let ’Er Buck! George Fletcher, the People’s Champion (by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson). He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with his wife and two children.

Secondary Section Keynote Session: Saturday, November 20

Kao Kalia Yang

Author, Somewhere in the Unknown World
Saturday, November 20 | 2:15–3:30 p.m. ET

Kao Kalia Yang is a Hmong-American writer and is the author of Somewhere in the Unknown World. Her previous books include The Song Poet, which received the Minnesota Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Chautauqua Prize, the PEN USA Literary Award, and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and The Latehomecomer, which also received the Minnesota Book Award. Her children's books include A Map into the World, which won the Minnesota Book Award, and The Shared Room. Yang, a regular contributor to NPR's On Being, lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Children's Literature Assembly Keynote Session: Sunday, November 21

Michaela Goade (Tlingit)

Illustrator, We Are Water Protectors
Sunday, November 21 | 9:00–10:15 a.m. ET

Michaela Goade (Tlingit) is the 2021 Caldecott Medal winner of We Are Water Protectors (2020). Her recent book, I Sang You Down from the Stars, written by Tasha Spillett-Sumner, has received multiple starred reviews.

Carole Lindstrom (Tribally enrolled Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe/Métis Nation)

Author, We Are Water Protectors
Sunday, November 21 | 9:00–10:15 a.m. ET

Carole Lindstrom (Tribally enrolled Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe/Métis Nation) is a New York Times bestselling author and Caldecott award-winning author of literature for young people. Her work includes We Are Water Protectors, illustrated by Michaela Goade (2020), which has received multiple starred reviews. Upcoming releases include My Powerful Hair, illustrated by Steph Littlebird (April 2022), Autumn Peltier, Water Warrior, illustrated by Bridget George (Fall 2022), and The Gift of the Great Buffalo, illustrated by Aly McKnight (Winter 2023). 

Kevin Noble Maillard (Seminole Nation)

Author, Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story
Sunday, November 21 | 9:00–10:15 a.m. ET

Kevin Noble Maillard (Seminole Nation) is the 2020 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal recipient, AIYLA Honor, and Zolotow Honor for Fry Bread (2019), an evocative and lively depiction of a modern Native American family. 

Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee)

Author, Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids and Sisters of the Neversea
Sunday, November 21 | 9:00–10:15 a.m. ET

Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee) is the 2021 Neustadt NSK Laureate and award-winning children's-young adult writer, writing teacher, and the Heartdrum imprint author-curator of books for children and teens centered on the lives of modern-day Native and First Nations people. Both of her recent middle grade releases, Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids (2021) and Sisters of the Neversea (2021), have received multiple starred reviews.

Traci Sorell (Cherokee Nation)

Author, We Are Still Here and Classified
Sunday, November 21 | 9:00–10:15 a.m. ET

Traci Sorell (Cherokee Nation) is an award-winning author of nonfiction and fiction works for young people. Her 2021 releases, We Are Still Here and Classified, are both Junior Library Guild selections with multiple starred reviews and build on her distinguished portfolio including We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga (2018), At the Mountain’s Base (2019), and Indian No More (2019).

National Writing Project Keynote Session: Sunday, November 21

Sangita Shresthova, PhD

Sunday, November 21 | 1:30–2:45 p.m. ET

Sangita Shresthova, PhD, is the director of research and programs of the Civic Paths group and Civic Imagination Project based at the University of Southern California. A scholar, educator, practitioner, artist, and writer, Sangita’s work focuses on connected learning, popular culture, performance, new media, and civics. She is a coauthor of three recently published books: Transformative Media Pedagogies (2021), Popular Culture and the Civic Imagination: Case Studies of Creative Social Change (2020), and Practicing Futures: A Civic Imagination Action Handbook (2020). Her other work (which includes Is It All about Hips?, a book on Bollywood dance) has appeared in various academic and popular publications. She is also one of the creators of the Digital Civics Toolkit (digitalcivicstoolkit.org), a “Best Edtech of 2018” recognized collection of resources for educators, teachers, and community leaders to support youth learning. Her creative work has been presented in creative venues around the world, including the Schaubuehne (Berlin, Germany), the Other Festival (Chennai, India), the EBS International Documentary Festival (Seoul, S. Korea), and the American Dance Festival (Durham, North Carolina).